Ohio State Basketball Coach Fired
Ohio State Details From Lawsuit Revealed
O'Brien Fired Tuesday
POSTED: 6:03 pm EDT June 9, 2004
UPDATED: 7:23 pm EDT June 9, 2004
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The fallout from the firing on Tuesday of Ohio State men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien continues as more details from a lawsuit that mentions the program come to light, NewsChannel 4 reported
NewsChannel 4 reported that O'Brien (pictured, right) was dismissed because he admitted he gave a recruit $6,000 five years ago.
NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes said the NCAA is investigating O'Brien and the Ohio State basketball program.
"I am troubled that a rule was admittedly violated and it took us five years to find out about it," said athletic director Andy Geiger, who frequently championed the honesty of his basketball coach as the Buckeyes struggled through a 14-16 season last year.
Geiger said he was stunned when he found out about what he called serious violations in the basketball program.
In a statement released through his attorney, O'Brien did not dispute that he helped potential recruit Aleksandar Radojevic"I am advised that my firing is because I was asked to and tried to give assistance to a young man's family who was in dire financial straits," said O'Brien in the statement. "The assistance in no way influenced the young man in his decision to attend OSU and, indeed, the young man did not enroll at OSU."
Geiger would not say whether the money was O'Brien's or came from another source.
"My understanding is it was not the school's (money)," Geiger said.
Geiger said O'Brien indicated he gave the money to Radojevic because the player's father had died, his mother was unable to work and he had three siblings.
Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 center, played in his native Yugoslavia and was recruited and signed by O'Brien. Before he attended a class or wore an Ohio State uniform, however, the NCAA ruled that he was ineligible for accepting $13,000 from a professional team in his homeland.
Prevented from playing college ball, Radojevic entered the NBA draft and was taken with the No. 12 pick in the first round by the Toronto Raptors. Injuries cut short his NBA career. He was traded to Denver and to Milwaukee in 2001 before being cut by the Bucks.
Ohio State learned of O'Brien's payment to Radojevic through a lawsuit by a woman who said she provided housing, meals and clothes for another Ohio State recruit from the same war-torn area, Slobodan (Boban) Savovic (pictured, right). He played four years with the Buckeyes, including the 1998-99 team that O'Brien led to the Final Four.
The woman, Kathleen Saylers, is suing two other people -- Dan and Kim Roslovic -- who helped sponsor Savovic, since he was not a U.S. citizen and needed to have someone vouch for him while he was in this country. In Sayler's breach-of-contract and fraud lawsuit, she alleges that the sponsors did not live up to their agreement to pay her $1,000 a month plus expenses to for Savovic's housing, food and transportation.
The lawsuit says that then-Ohio State assistant coach Paul Biancardi (pictured, left) -- now the head coach at Wright State -- also was active in handling money for Savovic, Radojevic, Savovic's brother Predrag and another Ohio State player originally from Yugoslavia, Cobe Ocokoljic.
The Gahanna woman claims that Biancardi, on behalf of O'Brien, arranged for payments to the players, provided her with season tickets and asked her to introduce players to agents. She also alleges that she did much of Savovic's Ohio State homework his first three years.
Salyers alleges that she gave Savovic approximately $200 a week during a two-year period.
She testified in a deposition in April that she often put the money in Savovic's medicine cabinet.
She said Biancardi regularly contacted her about Savovic and often told her he was calling at O'Brien's instruction.
"He (Biancardi) called and told me when taxes were due, when Boban was flunking a class, to go and talk to the professor and have his grade changed," Salyers said. "There were many, many calls from Paul Biancardi requesting that I pay something for Boban."
She also acknowledged that her attorney asked O'Brien for money to keep her story from becoming public.
An attorney asked Salyers in the deposition, "Kathy, have you authorized your attorney to send a letter to OSU in which your attorney offered to sell the book and movie rights to Jim O'Brien or to an entity controlled by Jim O'Brien?"
She responded, "I authorized my attorney to send every letter that he sent."
Biancardi said in a statement that the allegations have no basis in truth, NewsChannel 4 reported.
"I am disappointed and frustrated over the situation that has evolved from a lawsuit in which I am not a party and have had no involvement," he said in a statement released Wednesday. "These statements are not supported by facts and are uncorroborated."
In her deposition, Salyers confirmed she kept more than $6,000 Radojevic -- after he signed an NBA contract -- had given her to repay O'Brien. She said Biancardi, on behalf of O'Brien, asked Radojevic for the money back but that no one from Ohio State ever stopped by for the money. She said several months later she applied it to her mortgage payment.
Salyers said she did most of Savovic's homework for three years because he had difficulty with the English language.
Of the diploma he received from Ohio State, she says: "I was pretty upset by the whole thing, I think, thinking what a diploma would mean from Ohio State, that it's hardly worth the paper it's written on."
Salyers estimates that she gave Boban Savovic $200 on 120 occasions -- a total of $24,000 -- frequently putting the cash in his medicine chest because he was uncomfortable taking the money directly from her hand.
"Boban had a lot of pride," Salyers testified. "I'd say, 'Boban, go comb your hair.' And he'd go in the bathroom and get the money and come out and hug me."
Salyers provided receipts representing at least $1,600 she paid in car insurance on Savovic's 1990 Acura Legend. She said she paid at least $800 in phone bills and paid Savovic's international taxes. She paid for his brother, Predrag, to fly in from Hawaii for a visit and for Savovic's mother to receive medical treatment.
"It's just endless," Salyers said under oath. "It just goes on and on and on."
Her deposition also alleged:
-- That Savovic and a booster had a sexual relationship.
-- That Savovic amassed a bill of more than $10,000 on a long-distance telephone card that belonged to the father of New York player agent Mark Cornstein. NCAA rules bar any contact between agents and eligible players.
-- That Cornstein had access to Ohio State players and she had seen him in the Buckeyes' locker room after games.
Cornstein did not answer a message left seeking comment.
Interim Ohio State coach Rick Boyages acknowledged Wednesday that he knew Cornstein but declined further comment because of the pending NCAA and Ohio State investigation.
Dan Roslovic's attorney, Kris Dawley, released a statement Wednesday, stating, "Anything that occurred between Coach O'Brien and OSU player Aleksander Radojevic has nothing to do with Dan Roslovic. The allegations contained in the spurious lawsuit filed by Dan Roslovic's former babysitter (Kathy Salyers) will be shown to be false and completely fabricated."
Geiger said he had asked O'Brien about the lawsuit and was told by the coach that it was a minor problem and would go away. On April 24, Geiger said O'Brien told him that depositions in the lawsuit would reveal the payment made to Radojevic.
More at http://www.nbc4columbus.com/sports/3401111/detail.html
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The Ohio State Athletic Department has certainly had some problems here lately. First Clarrett and now this. Makes you wonder about the entire program.